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Money Saving Tips for Backpacking Travels

Written by: Ruper Bedell

Travel money tips are like gold, because let’s be honest, travel money can get a little confusing at times. On your gap year you’ll be dealing with multiple currencies and multiple exchange rates, especially if you’re travelling from country to country. It can be a nightmare when you’ve got AU dollars, NZ dollars and US dollars in your wallet / purse, let alone with Cambodia Riel, Laotian Kip, Thai Baht and Vietnamese Dong. That’s why it helps to have some travel money tips.
It’s important to know how much money you’re likely to spend on your gap year, and more importantly, how to save a few bucks. That’s why we’ve put together these travel money tips, aimed specifically at saving money on your gap year.

How to Save Money While Travelling

Travel Money Tips:

  • Buy your currency before you leave – When you’re abroad, ATMs, bureau de change and hotel concierges can be costly, with poor exchange rates, high commission levels and hidden fees.
  • Get currency delivered to your home – If you don’t have time to visit a bureau de change before you travel, but you don’t want the airport rate, then get the currency delivered to your home. This is a safe and convenient way to get your travel money and you will generally get more for your money than using a bureau de change.
  • Take a little more money than you think you need – This is a great travel money tip. Most travel money companies offer a ‘buyback’ service where they will buy your currency back at the same rate you bought it. The fact is, most people will top-up their spending money when travelling from a foreign ATM. What they don’t realise is foreign banks may be closed on certain weekdays or weekends. Also, ATMs may charge for cash withdrawals and exchange rates may not be what you expect, so it always helps to have that little bit extra.
  • Haggle – If you need to use a bureau de change, then haggle! Like most things in life, if you ask for a discount, you may well get one, especially if you offer to exchange more currency.
  • Understand the tipping customs – What’s the first thing you’ll need cash for when you land? Probably a taxi, for which you’ll need small denominations of currency for tips. Make sure you understand the tipping system and take a suitable amount of small notes – you won’t want to tip your hotel porter with a €50 note!
  • Be aware of tourist traps – There are a fair share of ‘cowboy’ outfits who will offer you dire rates and steep commission charges. Check the exchange rate online before you buy to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible when exchanging your travel money.
  • Don’t keep all of your cash in one place – Pick-pocketing in high volume tourist areas is common and you won’t want to lose everything in one go. A good travel money tip is to leave most of your money in a hotel safe or take a pre-paid card for extra security.
  • Prepaid card – If you’re looking for an easier way to carry multiple currencies abroad, prepaid cards are your best option. This is one of our favourite travel money tips because prepaid cards are safer than carrying cash, especially those that are PIN-protected. You can use them to pay for goods and services in most places that take credit / debit cards. Another great travel money tip for younger travellers is to set one of your parents up as a second cardholder, so they can add funds to your account if you have a cashflow crisis.
  • Pre-order your travel money online – If you’re getting currency at the airport then reserve it for collection before you hit the road. It’s common knowledge that you will get an inferior rate of exchange at the airport due to high operating costs. However, if you pre-order your currency online, you will receive a much better rate and still be able to collect your currency at the airport.
  • Fraud protection – Bear in mind that many banks and credit card companies will block foreign transactions as a means of fraud protection if you forget to inform your bank you are travelling. It’s worth taking extra money in case this happens

Travel money tips

Gapyear.com’s Travel Money Tips

Top of our travel money tips is (and it sounds like an obvious one) not to be too visible with your money. If you’re paying for something that’s £2, you don’t want to take out and pay with a £20 note. It’s a good idea to have a ‘change pocket’ with really small denominations for day-to-day things like water.
Also, another of our top travel money tips; separate your money! Have a little in your wallet, a little in your day bag and a little in your main backpack. That way, if you do get robbed, then you’ll always have a back-up somewhere.
Another fantastic travel money tip is to take your student card. You’ll be surprised at how much money you’ll be able to save on your gap year with a student card, even if it’s out of date! For example, admission to the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors is half the price with a student card, meaning you’ll be able to afford that extra beer in the evening. Your student card can get you can discounted rates at cinemas, museums and youth hostels, as well as a number of other places.

Find more articles about budgeting during travel

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